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2015 Australian Open: Men's final preview

Novak Djokovic has won the Sunshine Double four times. (AFP Photo/Paul Crock)
Roar Guru
30th January, 2015
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1765 Reads

One of modern tennis’ great rivalries will resume this Sunday night when Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray face off for the Australian Open title for the third time in five years, and for the fifth time in a Grand Slam final.

After three previous championship match losses in 2010, 2011 and 2013, Andy Murray will be hoping that it’s fourth time lucky at Melbourne Park.

Novak Djokovic will look to become the most successful man with a fifth title, taking him clear of Andre Agassi and Roger Federer who have both won four Australian Opens each.

Both Djokovic and Murray have displayed supreme form over the past fortnight and are therefore worthy of a showdown against each other for the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup this Sunday night.

Murray is so far unbeaten to start 2015 and will be keen to keep that streak going, while Djokovic will look to regain the crown which he lost last year and restore his domination of Melbourne Park with a record fifth title.

Given just how well both players have played in their six lead-up matches, it’ll be hard to predict a winner with any real confidence. However, only one can win, while the other will be left to ponder the heartbreak of a Grand Slam final defeat.

Here is the ultimate guide to the 2015 Australian Open men’s final.

Novak Djokovic (1) versus Andy Murray (6)
Sunday, February 1
Not before 7:30pm
Rod Laver Arena

Head-to-head: Djokovic 15-8
At Grand Slams: Djokovic 4-2
Last meeting: Djokovic 7-5, 6-2, quarter-finals, 2014 Paris Masters

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Novak Djokovic
Road to the final
Round 1: defeated Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-2, 6-4
Round 2: defeated Andrey Kuznetsov 6-0, 6-1, 6-4
Round 3: defeated Fernando Verdasco (31) 7-6 (10-8), 6-3, 6-4
Round 4: defeated Gilles Muller 6-4, 7-5, 7-5
Quarter-finals: defeated Milos Raonic (8) 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-2
Semi-finals: defeated Stan Wawrinka (4) 7-6 (7-1), 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0

Andy Murray
Road to the final
Round 1: defeated Yuki Bhambri 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3)
Round 2: defeated Marinko Matosevic 6-1, 6-3, 6-2
Round 3: defeated Joao Sousa 6-1, 6-1, 7-5
Round 4: defeated Grigor Dimitrov (10) 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-5
Quarter-finals: defeated Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3
Semi-finals: defeated Tomas Berdych (7) 6-7 (6-8), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5

Preview
After being dethroned by Stan Wawrinka in last year’s quarter-finals, world number one Novak Djokovic is back in the Australian Open final and he will be keen to win a record fifth Australian Open title and eighth Grand Slam title overall.

The top seed arrived in Melbourne Park on a mission, and rightly so. Throughout his first five matches, he dropped his serve just once but was made to endure yet another five-setter against Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals, losing his first set for the tournament in the second set and also dropping the fourth set as well.

But while the match predictably went the distance, the final set proved to be an anti-climax as opposed to their 2013 and 2014 meetings, with Djokovic winning it 6-0 and avenging his quarter-final defeat to the Swiss from twelve months ago.

Now, he is back in the final for the fifth time where Andy Murray stands in the way of him becoming the most successful man at the Australian Open in the Open Era.

Murray has been equally as impressive in his run to the final, also dropping just two sets (both of them tiebreaks) as his decision to appoint Amelie Mauresmo as coach midway through last year starts to become vindicated.

Along the way, he defeated two Australians, Marinko Matosevic and Nick Kyrgios in the second round and quarter-finals, respectively, and also proved too good for the only two seeds he has faced thus far, Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych, despite dropping a set to each of them.

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After losing the first set against Berdych in the semi-finals, Murray displayed the form that won him the US Open in 2012 and Wimbledon in 2013, sweeping through the second set 6-0 en route to an eventual four-set victory.

And after a relatively poor 2014 where he failed to reach a Grand Slam final, the Scot appears to be regaining his best form and a first Australian Open title would see him re-emerge as a genuine contender at the majors in the very near future.

Stats that matter
* This will be Novak Djokovic’s 15th Grand Slam final, while for Andy Murray this will be his seventh. It will be their fifth and fourth Australian Open finals respectively.
* Djokovic will be shooting for his eighth Grand Slam title, Murray his third. The former will be aiming for a record fifth Australian Open title, the latter his first after three previous losses.
* This will be their fifth Grand Slam final against each other, seventh Grand Slam meeting overall and fourth overall at the Australian Open. The pair are tied in the first category (two apiece), while Djokovic leads 4-2 and 3-0 in the other two respective categories.
* Both of Andy Murray’s Grand Slam titles (2012 US Open and Wimbledon 2013) have come at the expense of Novak Djokovic. This includes his most recent Grand Slam title at Wimbledon just under 19 months ago.
* Regardless of the result, Novak Djokovic will hang onto his world number one ranking, skipping clear of both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who both lost early this year, while Andy Murray can rise to third by winning the title, overtaking Nadal.
* When the rankings are updated on Monday, the “Big Four” (Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Murray) will once again reign as the world’s top four players simultaneously for the first time in just over twelve months.
* This means that Stan Wawrinka, who has failed to defend his title after losing to Djokovic in the semi-finals, will drop to ninth in the world rankings. Including this week, he will have spent 53 weeks ranked either third or fourth.

The verdict
With the advantage of a 24-hour break on his same-age rival, Andy Murray will enter his fourth Australian Open final fit and refreshed and perhaps with a new game plan after three previous unsuccessful attempts to win the title.

The 27-year-old Dunblane native can take heart that his most recent Grand Slam title did come at the expense of Novak Djokovic, when he defeated him in straight sets to become the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win Wimbledon just less than nineteen months ago. That said, Murray has beaten Djokovic in two of his last three Grand Slam finals on either side of losing here in 2013.

He also currently shares the record of three Australian Open final defeats with Stefan Edberg, and surely won’t want to assume the sole record of four losses from as many finals. Therefore, the Scot will be fired up to win this Sunday night.

Murray also hasn’t beaten Djokovic since the aforementioned Wimbledon final in 2013, losing his last four to the Djoker and winning just one set in the intervention. However, his record isn’t as bad as Maria Sharapova’s currently is against Serena Williams.

While I do hope Andy Murray can finally break through on his fourth attempt, I still think the lure of creating history at the Australian Open will drive Novak Djokovic to a record fifth title here.

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However, it won’t come very easy at all when you assess the form of both players over this past fortnight.

Prediction
Novak Djokovic in four sets.